By Laurence Vittes | From the September-October 2021 issue of Strings magazine
Introduced in spring 2021, after years of development and prototype testing, Idagio’s Live Compare technology switches seamlessly between different recordings of a work as the music continues to play uninterrupted—even if the work was performed at different tempos and pitches. Run through its paces on the first six posted works, it is an easy-to-use, browser-based, immersive listening tool that is designed to help users make listening and buying decisions. It’s also inescapably cool.
The 16 recordings of the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, for example, range from Yehudi Menuhin in 1936 to Isabelle Faust in 2017. Having listened to them all, I’d say Nathan Milstein (1973) and Itzhak Perlman (1972) strike the best balance between virtuosity and humanity despite fierce competition from icons like Ivry Gitlis, Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh, and Michael Rabin.
According to Idagio’s senior backend and API developer Lukas Osterloh, “There’s nothing proprietary or patented” about the technology. “The idea originally came from music information retrieval research in Germany and is relatively straightforward to implement unless one recording takes the repeats and the other doesn’t.” For period-instrument recordings like Faust’s, the shift in pitch can be momentarily disconcerting.
Osterloh’s list of priorities includes introducing Live Compare more widely, integrating it more tightly with the rest of the platform, and adding more works to the current lineup, which includes the Mendelssohn, piano works by Liszt and Chopin, Strauss’ Don Juan, and the first movements of Rachmaninov 2 and Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet (of which there are 15 recordings, three of which are on period instruments).
Live Compare is currently only available on the Idagio website via your laptop or desktop—not via smartphone—and requires free registration.
- Includes six works, each of which sources multiple recordings
- Requires free registration on Idagio website
- Only available via computer